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Mrs. Rowley

Christopher Wiseman
From:   Postcards Home: Poems Selected & New. 1988


(for Don Coles)

The old gas-bag, we called her. Came on Thursday
Mornings, fat and panting, to the back door,
Ten-thirty to the minute, smiling, eyes
Enormous behind her glasses, hair askew,

And sat at the kitchen table, catching her breath.
Mrs. Rowley from the grocer's shop,
Taking orders from her regulars,
But really out to talk,to share the news.

Took out her black book, fussing for it
In her bag, chatted for twenty minutes
Until, on some unknown cue, she'd lick the purple
Indelible pencil and slowly get to work.

Same as last week for the tinned fruit, is it,
Dear? We've got a new line of puddings in
And I thought of you . . . . All done, she heaved
Her bulk upward, stumped down the back steps

And wheezed happily away, losing herself
In the long streets like a soft giant ghost.
Mrs. Rowley, gas bag, figure of fun
In a child's world, back to her corner shop,

To custard,-powder, potted meat and spices.
The next morning, a huge brown box of food
Would somehow appear at our door, as if from on high,
Fragrant, packed lovingly. Those fat fingers!

Until she stopped coming. One day she just stopped.
Big, gossiping, slow-walking Mrs. Rowley
Came no more to talk, to make the food
Appear without a sound on our white scrubbed steps.

Mrs. Rowley, the gas bag, up, up, and up,
Up over the city, high and away, out
Of our lives, past new dark clouds coming in;
Mrs. Rowley sailing, towing her time

Behind her, wheezing not at all as she soared,
Pulling away a world of gentleness,
A world of slowness and great courtesy,
A world where words were spoken and food was there.



Christopher Wiseman's works copyright © to the author.


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